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Farewell, Sweet Friend

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Sorry for the radio silence this week! I felt like I needed a couple personal days before returning. I promise this will be my last Rocky post. Next week I’ll be back with more of the regular financial/work/life posts. So indulge me in just this last one.

The short story is that we said farewell to our sweet furry friend on Wednesday.

It still kind of blows my mind how quickly things went downhill.

Last Monday we were at the vet for a routine check-up. We literally had NO CLUE anything was wrong with our fur-baby. He had recently stopped jumping up on our bed, but I thought it was due to arthritis. He’s a large dog and 11 years old, so it didn’t alarm me that he was showing potential signs of joint problems. Plus, they were real recent. I thought it was no big deal.

Then last Wednesday we got official word that it WAS, in fact, a big deal. Rocky wouldn’t be around for much longer.

By Thursday morning it was like a flip had been switched and Rocky was SICK. I mean, he was really ill. We were told he might make it 3-6 weeks, but literally the day after the diagnosis he immediately stopped eating and drinking, stopped moving around much at all, and started vomiting multiple times per day. I don’t know the dog’s mind, but I think it’s reasonable to believe that he realized something was wrong with him and he gave himself permission to give into the disease that was ravaging his body (he’d been to the dog doctor twice within a single week, and we left with me sobbing my eyes out. Doesn’t take genius-level reasoning skills to know something is not good). I hired a photographer to come take some final family photos, but the soonest she could get out wasn’t until Tuesday and I was worried Rocky wouldn’t make it that long. So after a serious day of illness all day last Thursday, on Friday I started talking to Rocky and telling him what was going on. I told him that he needed to hold on for a few more days. And again, overnight, he seemed better. Well…better-ish.

He started moving around more, resumed eating and drinking, and stopped vomiting. To be fair though, he never did eat dog food again. Our vet literally said “feed him cheeseburgers” (just basically to say he could have whatever/we didn’t need to put him on a special diet). So during his last week he enjoyed pizza, quesadillas, peanut butter sandwiches, and Sonoran hot dogs. All of his favorite foods!

We had our photos done on Tuesday afternoon. I’ve only seen some initial images, but I do think there were some good ones. I’m still kind of sad because you can definitely SEE that Rocky wasn’t feeling well. I don’t think the photos accurately reflect his spunky personality because, at the point of the photos, he was just barely hanging on (in my own mind, he only made it this long because he loves me and I was asking him to hold on). Even so, there were some good ones that I’ll cherish forever. As a surprise, the photographer only charged us $100. It was a very short session (about 20 minutes) because Rocky really wasn’t feeling up to it and the girls kept having melt-downs (not about Rocky, but just the general run-of-the-mill toddler tantrums).

Wednesday morning, the girls went to their last day of preschool and Rocky went back to the vet one final time. Only this time, hubs and I came home empty-handed. I know it was the right time. Almost immediately after our photos on Tuesday night, Rocky showed signs of serious illness again. He refused food and water and resumed throwing up.

I’m telling you….I don’t even know that I believe in that stuff. And yet…it feels like there’s something to it. He was holding on just for me/for those pictures. When they were done…so was he.

I’m heartbroken and sad, of course. But I also feel at peace, knowing it was his time to go. I also like knowing that he had a full lifetime of many wonderful memories and lots and lots of love, hugs, and attention.

I want to thank you all so much for your comments, kindness, and virtual hugs. I really did feel each one! I also loved your tips!

A few of you suggested doing a doggy paw print mold. And thanks to the magic of Amazon Prime, I was able to get this package mailed same day this past weekend. I had Rocky do the mold imprint the same day. I haven’t actually matted it yet, so the picture below is just kind of sitting there (not properly matted and framed), but this gives you an idea of how it will look. This picture is one from 5 years ago at our baby shower for the girls!! I may end up replacing it with one of the professional photos but I love this shot because his eyes are so bright and he looks so happy (he was in the middle of playing ball, his favorite past-time). On the side with the paw print mold, I also plan to mount his name-tag (a bone-shaped tag saying “Rocky” with our phone number).  I LOVE it and I never would have thought of this idea on my own. It was only $20 and I think it was $20 well spent, in my opinion. Thank you to those of you who suggested this idea!

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Again, thank you for your kindness. If you aren’t a pet person I know how crazy this all seems. Before we had Rocky, I always thought people who referred to their pets as “babies” were a little weird. No offense! But when we got Rocky I totally became one of “those” people! Hands down! He’s been a huge part of my life the last 11 years! I got him when I was only 21 years old so he has been around for a significant chunk of my life! I know I will miss him always, but my heart will heal.

I hope you all have a great rest of the week and weekend. Thank you for indulging me in these Rocky-heavy posts the past week. Writing has always been healing for me, so I feel like I really needed to write about it as a way to help process the emotions (plus, there have been some serious financial implications, too!) I’ll see you all on Monday with a more “typical” post. Have a great weekend!

 

 


Now We Know

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Thanks for all the kind comments on my Tuesday post regarding the health of our dog, Rocky. I haven’t been able to bring myself to reply to each of the comments individually, but I do want you to know I’ve read every single one and appreciate all the love and positivity you’ve shown us. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Yesterday I spent 4 hours at a vet specialist having additional tests run. Our first vet feared the worst, but said there was a (slim) chance Rocky’s issues could be resolved with dietary and lifestyle changes, so we were certainly hoping for the best.

Six Hundred Thirty Dollars later (in addition to the original $275 for labs spent on Monday), we have no shadow of a doubt. Rocky is dying.

He’s got lymphoma that’s spread to his liver and kidneys. The vet’s estimate gives him 3-6 weeks longer to live. I ended up paying for an ultrasound and an aspirate of his lymph nodes for examination/testing. I felt kind of dumb agreeing to the aspirate after the ultrasound was performed because the vet said it was likely lymphoma and I knew we wouldn’t agree to chemotherapy/treatment, so the second procedure seemed a bit like a waste of money. But on the other hand, as one commenter put it (“I hope you can make a decision you find peace with”), I felt like I needed to know in order to have peace. The ultrasound didn’t show any outright tumors that would have been 100% definitive (though it did show enlargement, grayness, and “lack of uniformity” that’s indicative of problems), so it took an examination of the lymph node fluids to know for sure.

We talked about the options. I knew chemotherapy wasn’t going to work and, with as advanced as his cancer already is (they placed him in Stage 4), the vet wasn’t optimistic that it would buy much more time anyway.

She said we could schedule an appointment to euthanize him, but I wasn’t emotionally able to handle that at the appointment. So the option we chose was one of palliative care. We’ve got some meds to make him feel better (they don’t treat the lymphoma, but will give him a little energy, increase his appetite, and make him feel a bit more like himself). Then when it’s clear that he’s no longer happy, we’ll schedule the appointment. It could be a matter of days or weeks…likely not longer than that.

I tried to hold it together at the vets (tears streamed down my face, but no outright sobbing), but I fell apart walking out to the car. And Rocky’s reaction? He leans over and starts licking my arms, trying to make me feel better. Sweet dog. I’ll be so, so sad to no longer have him in my life.

About the financials:

The exact amount in our “pet expenses” account was $335. That was the first pot of money that I used. I paid for the specialists’ bill on a credit card so no money has actually left our account yet to pay for the remaining balance. I’m going to pay it off as soon as the bill comes, but it buys us a little more time. First, I’ll try to make some funds available out of our normal budget by shifting things around. It might be tough though because this was already going to be a relatively “lean” month due to not receiving a paycheck from my part-time job this month. So if we can’t cover the rest of it from our budget, we’ll draw any remaining amount due from the emergency fund we’ve just started to build back up. It will be a bit of a blow, but it won’t be catastrophic, and at least we aren’t taking on any debt. Honestly, I know it’s an egregious amount ($905 currently; Add in prescription pet meds. And I don’t know how much it costs to euthanize him, but add that to the mix, too). Despite the cost, I really do feel at peace with our decision now that we have the full scope of information. If we hadn’t gone ahead with the diagnostics I’d always be wondering (plus, knowing what he has impacted our vet’s decision regarding the kind of meds she’s prescribing, so it was important for that).

Rocky boy is my first real dog. We had one family pet growing up, but we got him when I was already one-foot-out-the-door to college, so I never really bonded with him and he passed away long after I was gone from the house. Rocky, though, is my boy. Officially speaking, hubs and I got him together in our first apartment together. But everyone knew Rocky was “my” dog. Still to this day, I (and I alone) am his favorite human.

It’s tough already, but I know it will get tougher soon. As a heads up (and we totally don’t have money for this in the budget either), I immediately called a photographer and asked if she’d be able to make a last-minute house call to get some final family photos as a family of 5 (before we lose our doggy member and reduce back down to a family of 4). Rocky has never been included in “family pictures” and although I’ve got photos of him from throughout the years, they’re terrible quality and none are actual posed photos with the whole family. I know this is something I’ll cherish long after he’s gone and, again, it brought an aspect of peace to this process for me. Unfortunately, the soonest the photographer can come out is not until Tuesday. I’m pretty worried that might be too late, as Rocky refused to eat all day yesterday and has already thrown up twice today (as of 6:30am). But he just barely started his medicine so – fingers crossed – it buys us enough time for him to truly feel better, spend some more time together, and get the photos my heart is yearning for. I don’t yet know the price, but our last photos were $150. I did tell the photographer I’d pay extra to come to our house since we live a good hour away from where she’s located. Honestly, I kind of don’t care. I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, but even if the price were doubled ($300), it’s $300 well spent. And just about the last $300 we’d ever be spending on this animal, so that’s something to think about in terms of (lack of) future costs.

In some ways, I’m truly thankful things will happen quickly. He won’t have a long, drawn-out period of misery and slow deterioration (like my Dad is experiencing with his disease). I’m also thankful this is happening during summer so I’m not away for long hours at a time. My plan is to still work at the office MWF, but this entire week I’ve stayed home with him. I do have to go in for several meetings on Friday, but hubs will be able to be around. This is important, as Rocky will increasingly need quick access to outside and we don’t have a doggy door. Plus, someone needs to be around to be able to monitor how he’s doing.

I hope to have a couple more weeks with him to fully love on him, pamper him a bit, and (selfishly), give ourselves a chance to wrap our minds around the inevitable. But as soon as its clear that he’s no longer enjoying life, we’ll be sure to do the most humane thing for him. I know the time is coming soon.

Everyone has their own struggles. Peace and hugs to all of you as you navigate yours.

“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” ~Wendy Mass


A dog’s worth

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Rocky was our first baby. Years before we ever had human children, he was our “child.” Yes, we were those people. The kind who refer to their pets as children. We treated him as well as you’d treat a human child, too. He had it made. Dog parks, long jogs, lots of love and affection. He moved with us cross-country two separate times. He’s been with us through thick and thin. Richer and poorer. All that stuff.

Having kids changed all that, to some extent.

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He still remained our “child”, but now we referred to him as our “first born.” He was no longer the baby, having been displaced by two human babies. The trips to the dog park became less frequent. The jogs became shorter. And, in general, he realized he’d been replaced on the food chain. Our two new human babies came before him. He accepted his new position in the family like a champ. Never acting out or misbehaving. In fact, he rather liked having these two tiny humans running around. Although they were loud and he didn’t like having his sleep disrupted at night (omg, they didn’t reliably sleep through the night until they were nearly 3!!!), he LOVED all the table scraps he suddenly started gaining access to as the girls would drop things from their high chair trays (or purposely throw down food, on occasion).

Rocky turned 11 this year.

As a large dog, I know his days are numbered as it is. He’s starting to slow down, show signs of arthritis, etc.

We took him to the vet yesterday for his routine check-up. He needed updated vaccinations and I wanted to ask about the arthritis issue (I’d noticed he no longer jumps onto our bed anymore. This was a big deal to me as he’s slept with us for all 11 years of his life. Yes, I know that’s not necessarily healthy and all. Like I said, he’s our baby).

But that’s not how things went.

During the vet’s examination, there were some troubling things about Rocky. His ears looked yellow. His gums, too, looked yellow. I’d never noticed before.

The vet drew labs. $275 later we were headed home. We’d get a call the next day with some news.

We waited and waited and called the vet probably 20 times (“no, labs aren’t back yet.”). We finally heard back at 6:30pm this evening, after the office had already closed for the day. Rocky’s white blood count is perfectly normal (which is good), but his liver enzymes are off the chart. The vet referred us to an emergency vet clinic. She wants us to make an appointment ASAP for an abdominal ultrasound (estimated about $400, on top of the $100 office visit charge). If it’s not telling, we may be advised to have a biopsy done (estimated at $1000+).

I’m at a total loss.

After the expensive vet visit yesterday, I was thankful we already had some funds set aside for “pet expenses.” We had about $350 in the account, so husband and I joked that we still had about $75 leftover after paying for the vet. “The problem better be $75 or less. More than that, and he’s screwed.” Chuckle, chuckle.

But now this.

I’m a realist. I always have been. So I’m trying to detach myself from the emotions involved (he’s my baby) and think practically. Logically.

He’s 11 years old. He’s a large dog. He’s not going to live many more years anyway. Do we really want to spend up to $1,000+ just on diagnostics?? Then what if we find out he needs surgery? Are we going to shell out the many multiple thousands for that? And he’s so old, recovery would be hard anyway. No guarantee he’d even survive surgery. I don’t think we’d go that route.

But where do we draw the line? What’s the worth of this animal? This member of our family? Our “first born child”?

 

I’m grateful we’ve been building up an emergency fund. But does this qualify as an “emergency”? What would you do? How much would you be willing to spend on your dog to find out what’s wrong? How much would you be willing to spend on your dog to fix the problem (once an official diagnosis is reached)? What’s the most humane option? What’s the best option?

I’m leaning toward opting for an ultrasound so we at least know what we’re dealing with (at an estimated cost of approximately $500 including the office visit charge). If the ultrasound doesn’t give us any indication of the problem….then what? Proceed with biopsy? Decline biopsy and call it a day? Watch him suffer in pain until the end? End it early?

My heart breaks. Obviously I knew he was getting old. I knew this day would come eventually. But still. My heart breaks.

See another Rocky-centric post here.


T minus 15 days!

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The countdown is on, we will be moving to our “Glamping Adventure” in 15 days.  Our hosts have been AMAZING!  Have you ever just woken up and thought I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, like all the doubt of the challenges has melted away and you just know that where you are is right, for that time.  That’s how I’m feeling these days about this next step.

All the animals have been re-homed, our storage is almost full (complete) and we are charging forth with our last week of school and preparations for moving.  I still have to find a truck to move a few things we can’t move in our car and figure out what to do with the things we hoped to sell but are not moving…donate, I suppose.

We are out of town this weekend, probably not the best financial move since I’m still struggling with being late on two bigger bills, BUT Little Gymnast is headed to Regionals and we are all going to support him.  After this meet, he will officially level up and go from being in the gym 15 hours a week to 20 hours a week.  He loves it!  I’m so grateful for a gym that has allowed me to barter my technology skills for his training, there is no way I could have kept him going otherwise.

So just to give you a glimpse of our new home…here’s a video of Princess and Eugene one our new yard neighbors.

We’ve also learned this week that our hosts have ordered a bunch of hatchlings (400 was the last count I heard) and we are going to get a coop at our place to have our own chickens…can you say dream come true! I wish you could hear the excitement in my voice and see the twinkle in my eye as I look forward to this adventure!

We were out there this week, dropping stuff off and helping out, and Mrs. Host pulled me aside and said this:

Mr. Host asked me how long you were planning to stay and I told him I don’t know, and he wanted me to make sure to tell you, “Stay as long as you like, I don’t care if it’s a few months or a year. Take the time to get on your feet, make yourself at home. You are welcome here.”

Can you even imagine how much that meant to me during this most difficult financial season? I know, I/We are exactly where we are supposed to be right now. And more importantly, that whatever comes next, it will be okay.


How could I forget and All the Dogs Gone

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Better late than never!

I was so proud of getting my budget together for our Glamping Adventure that begins next month.  But I forgot a category and in our preparation I’ve had a rude awakening…laundromat!  I had this great plan that while the kids were at swim team every morning, I would be able to run across the street, do some laundry and it would be done by the time we leave the pool.  $10-15 dollars a week.

Um, no.  We decided to try it this week.  So on the way with granted a couple of weeks of laundry plus dog bedding, I run by the bank to grab a few rolls of quarters.  Did you know laundromats no longer take quarters?  I had to use my bank card to by a laundry card…and $60 later, we had our laundry done.  $60!!!  It was $5 per wash load, and $0.39 per 7 minutes in a dryer.  Yikes!!!!

So definitely going to have to re-think this plan and add some to the budget!

On the other side, we have re-homed our final dog as of today and have two home possibilities for the cat next week.  By the end of the month, one month before we have to move we have found great homes for all our beloved pets.

Princess and Gymnast saying goodbye to Izzy today.

Princess and Gymnast saying goodbye to Izzy today.


Re-homing Pets – First Success

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Early on, I got a lot of feedback on the number of animals we have.  And while my financial position and housing options seems to improve there for a while, things have definitely taken a nose dive since losing my big contract in October.  And with that, and the looming move in April, I am once again making some really tough decisions.  Our animals, most if not all, are being re-homed.

Now to be clear, I will NOT put them in a shelter.  But I am open to finding them good homes that will be best for them.  So to that end, we have let those closest to us know (they already know our situation,) and asked them to be on the lookout.

And I’m happy to say, we have found our smallest dog a new home, with which we are all happy.  Mene (short for Menehune, pronounced “mini”) stayed this past week at what will become his new home as a trial while I was out of town training for my new part time job.  We brought him home last night and have received confirmation from the family that they do want to move forward.  Yeah!

I will be taking all the animals to the vet in the next week or so for annual shots and exams, and then they will be ready to move.  It is a HUGE move for me to be ready and open to this.  The kids are all sad, but understand the situation, and I think the method in which we are doing this is a good…as good as it can be.

No solid leads for the other three, but I am hopeful and feel like giving myself four months prior to the move allows me to be picky and make wise, not rushed decisions.

I do not know what we will do if we haven’t found homes before we have to move in April.  If  I’ve gotten a new job and thus housing, it will be fine, but if I haven’t, I don’t know.  So please pray that good, solid homes are found for our beloved animals.  Or maybe even families that would be willing to keep them while we get back on our feet.  But the first option is ideal, after being through the ringer the last few years financially, housing wise, etc. it would be nice to have the responsibility and worry lifted completely for the time being.


Weekly Debt Update #19- Father’s Day Weekend and Disney Prep

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Hope everyone is having a wonderful day.

This past weekend was Father’s Day, of course, so for all you fathers out there- here’s to you. Since my dad was down in Orlando visiting my nephew all weekend, we did not do any celebrating. After talking with my mom and brother, we’re holding off celebrating with my dad until the weekend of the 4th, since we all have the weekend off. However, just like for mother’s day where I celebrated GF being the “mother” of our dogs, she did some amazingly wonderful things for me. First, she made me breakfast, and then I got to spend most of the day doing what I wanted (spent playing guitar) while she worried about taking care of the chores. She made the dinner of my choice (her awesome homemade chili and a Greek salad) and then took us for a drive to a little, but fairly famous, road side stand for root beer floats. On the way back, we stopped at a beach and relaxed in the park. Here’s me on a child’s swing, lol:

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As for Disney prep- I appreciate all the amazing comments on last week’s post. We now have some ideas for what we are going to do for food on our way back. Chances are at this point, we’ll find a grocery store outside of Disney and grab some items to pack in our cooler on the way back. Like I said before, GF has begun picking up non-perishables for the ride down. The way she coupons and shops, I don’t see a problem having enough non-perishable foods for both the way down and the way back up. We also started doing a “hardcore” cleaning of our house. The house never gets really dirty, but we don’t clean into the nooks and crannies too often. GF and I agree that there’s no better feeling after vacation than coming home to a super clean house. This way we won’t have to worry about doing much in the ways of chores when we get back. If there’s one thing about Disney, with the amount of walking and the lack of sleep, you could use a vacation after, so to speak, lol.  We started doing the cleaning last night and we’ll move room to room until we leave in a couple of weeks.

For the last week of debt payoff, here’s the numbers:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,838.59$3,998.65$57.94
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,702.35$3,494.67$48.15
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$5,925.89$4,424.29$345.74
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00$0.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$48,466.83$62.120.83$451.83

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